Don’t Make Localisation an Afterthought

So, you have developed an application. And now you want to make your product available to a larger international audience, who’s first language is not English.

Let’s ignore the technical problems that come with localisation, instead let’s think about who should produce that other language version of the app and how it should be done.

Localisation is Not a Quick Job

Your app is “done” you don’t really want to invest money into localising it in another language, so the cheapest option: you hire a translation company, get a translation a few days or weeks later and that’s it, right?

Think twice.

The language you employ in your marketing materials and in your user interface (UI) is what makes people comfortable trying it out, what makes them comfortable using it and maybe what differentiates it from the competition. Apart from the design and layout of your app, the right wording can make and break the usability of your product. It is not to be taken lightly.

Translation is More than Exchanging Words for Others

Many of the metaphors or allegories you use to make the app more approachable will probably not work in other languages – you will have to find other ways of conveying the concept.

You’ll have to deal with space restrictions and languages that tend to have longer words (e.g. German) or languages that are wordy, because they have to use full sentences where you’d have one compound noun in English (e.g. French, Spanish). To fit that in your widgets and buttons you will need to think about rewording major parts of your UI.

Every localisation brings many changes like these with it which demand a plethora of decisions to be made. Decisions that can only be made by people with expert knowledge of your app, the concept, the marketing approach – everything.

You’re the Only Experts

If you’re like us you have put your blood, sweat and tears into polishing the UI and the wording of UI elements, buttons and labels. You went to great lengths to make sure that you got just the right wording everywhere and find the perfect names for all parts of the UI to make it as self-explanatory as possible.

It has taken you a lot of time and effort just to get there.

Hiring someone to localise your app means asking them to make your UI just as good in their language as it is in yours.

Is your translation company up to the task of redefining your product for a different market? Do they understand your product well enough to draw the right conclusions?

If not, you will have to get them there! Asking any other company to localise your app essentially leaves you with the daunting task of making them experts in everything concerning your application.

They have to be able to make many of the decisions you made while defining the UI of your product, because due to the reasons given above they inevitably will have to re-create the wording for many parts of the user interface.

They will also have to re-write most of your marketing materials, because ways of making a product or company appealing in one culture could be putting people off elsewhere, key features in one country could be irrelevant elsewhere.

This is not a small task for either of you.

Cheaper, Quicker, Better – You Can Get All

Your staff are best equipped to present it in any language they speak. They thoroughly understand the concept and all the considerations behind your app (if they don’t you have quite another monkey on your back!)

So, at The Plant we have decided that the localisation of Qortexinto Chinese, Japanese and German will be an in-house job. We’re lucky enough to have the staff. And this is really saving us a lot of time we would have otherwise needed to coerce unsuspecting translators into becoming Qortex experts.

This has saved us a lot of time, money and nerves. We think it is probably the best way to get your localisations out there quickly while still keeping the high standards you (hopefully) have employed for your products.

If you can’t do it internally

The people who can localise the app properly, consistently and most cost-effectively are the people who have been working on and with it day in, day out. Your staff.

Of course if you want to enter countries of which none of your staff speaks the language, you have no choice but relying on translation services. However, do not make the mistake and think you can hand that over and be done with it. It is a very involved process that takes a lot of effort and if you want to do it right it can and should not be done quickly or cheaply.